The paper reviews the grounds for relativist interpretations of Wittgenstein's later thought, especially in On Certainty . It distinguishes between factual and virtual forms of epistemic relativism and argues that, on closer inspection, Wittgenstein's notes don't support any form of relativism – let it be factual or virtual. In passing, it considers also so-called "naturalist" readings of On Certainty , which may lend support to a relativist interpretation of Wittgenstein's ideas, finds them wanting, and recommends to (...) interpret his positive proposal in On Certainty as a form of "internal rationalism.". (shrink)
Some relativists deny that moral discourse is factual. According to them, our ethical commitments are to be explained by appealing to noncognitive mental states like desires, rather than to beliefs in some independent moral facts. Indeed, the package antirealism (there are no moral properties) & noncognitivism (the source of moral commitments is noncognitive) seems to be implicit in Lewis’s and Harman’s relativism. But to many philosophers this package seems to be unattractive. Our task in this paper is to (...) construe and defend a less committal and hence more attractive version of relativism. Our thesis has two elements. First, we shall present a version of relativism that combines, on the one hand, realism with regard to thick ethical properties, and, on the other, antirealism with regard to thin ethical properties. Secondly, we shall argue that this version of relativism can be defended through the skeptical theory of meaning Kripke attributes to the later Wittgenstein. The paper comprises three parts: the first sketches in very broad lines a version of standard moral relativism. In the second part we construe an alternative version that we call ‘cultural relativism.’ By appealing to the thick-thin distinction, cultural relativists explain what it means to say of forms of life that they are in conflict. In the third part we shall elaborate an argument whose conclusion is that in ranking conflicting ethical outlooks, people make an error, that is, they attribute to these outlooks moral properties that do not exist. (shrink)
The relativist's central objection to contextualism is that it fails to account for the disagreement we perceive in discourse about "subjective" matters, such as whether stewed prunes are delicious. If we are to adjudicate between contextualism and relativism, then, we must first get clear about what it is for two people to disagree. This question turns out to be surprisingly difficult to answer. A partial answer is given here; although it is incomplete, it does help shape what the relativist (...) must say if she is to do better than the contextualist in securing genuine disagreement. (shrink)
I think that there are good reasons to adopt a relativist semantics for epistemic modal claims such as ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', according to which such utterances determine a truth value relative to something finer-grained than just a world (or a <world, time> pair). Anyone who is inclined to relativise truth to more than just worlds and times faces a problem about assertion. It's easy to be puzzled about just what purpose would be served by assertions (...) of this kind, and how to understand what we'd be up to in our use of sentences like ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', if they have such peculiar truth conditions. After providing a very quick argument to motivate a relativist view of epistemic modals, I bring out and attempt to resolve this problem in making sense of the role of assertions with relativist truth conditions. Solving this problem should be helpful in two ways: first, it eliminates an apparently forceful objection to relativism, and second, spelling out the relativist account of assertion and communication will help to make clear just what the relativist position is, exactly, and why it's interesting. (shrink)
The structure of this article is very simple. In the first half, I will introduce a sophisticated way of reading Heidegger as a relativist; I draw here on the work of Kusch and Lafont. In the second half, I present the counter-argument. As I see it, Heidegger is not a relativist; but understanding the relations between his approach and a relativistic one is crucial for an evaluation of both his own work and the broader trajectory of post-Kantian thought.
In this paper I refute the chief arguments for cultural relativism, meaning the moral (not the descriptive) theory that goes by that name. In doing this I walk some oft-trodden paths, but I also break new ones. For instance, I take unusual pains to produce an adequate formulation of cultural relativism, and I distinguish that thesis from the relativism of present-day anthropologists, with which it is often conflated. In addition, I address not one or two, but eleven (...) arguments for cultural relativism, many of which contribute to its popularity but receive scant attention from its critics. To elicit the failings of these arguments I deploy a host of pertinent but often neglected distinctions. (shrink)
Many philosophers, however, have been tempted to be relativists about speciﬁc domains of discourse, especially about those domains that have a normative character. Gilbert Harman, for example, has defended a relativistic view of morality, Richard Rorty a relativistic view of epistemic justiﬁcation, and Crispin Wright a relativistic view of judgments of taste.¹ But what exactly is it to be a relativist about a given domain of discourse? The term ‘‘relativism’’ has, of course, been used in a bewildering variety of (...) senses and it is not my aim to discuss each and every one of those senses here. Rather, what interests me is the notion that is characterized by the following core idea: the relativist about a given domain, D, purports to have discovered that the truths of D involve an unexpected relation to a parameter. (shrink)
The paper focuses on one central aspect of Karl Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge: his exemption of the contents of mathematics and the natural sciences from sociological investigations. After emphasizing the importance of Mannheim’s contribution and his exemption-thesis to the history and development of the field and the problem of relativism, I survey several interpretations of the thesis – especially those put forward by proponents of the so-called ‘Strong Programme’. I argue that these interpretations do not get the philosophical background (...) and impetus of Mannheim’s contribution right. By distinguishing between naturalistic and anti-naturalistic strands in Mannheim’s work I propose a new reading on which Mannheim did not exempt the contents of the areas in question principally or because of a lack of nerve and will. It is argued that Mannheim’s exemption-thesis rather is a consequence of his own sketchy sociological investigations of ‘the paradigm of the natural sciences’. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to examine the kind of evidence that might be adduced in support of relativist semantics of a kind that have recently been proposed for predicates of personal taste, for epistemic modals, for knowledge attributions and for other cases. I shall concentrate on the case of taste predicates, but what I have to say is easily transposed to the other cases just mentioned. I shall begin by considering in general the question of what kind of (...) evidence can be offered in favour of some semantic theory or framework of semantic theorizing. In other words, I shall begin with the difficult question of the empirical significance of semantic theorizing. In Sect. 2, I outline a relativist semantic theory, and in Sect. 3, I review four types of evidence that might be offered in favour of a relativistic framework. I show that the evidence is not conclusive because a sophisticated form of contextualism can stand up to the evidence. However, the evidence can be taken to support the view that either relativism or the sophisticated form of contextualism is correct. (shrink)
This paper argues against relativism, focusing on relativism based on the semantics of predicates of personal taste. It presents and defends a contextualist semantics for these predicates, derived from current work on gradable adjectives. It then considers metasemantic questions about the kinds of contextual parameters this semantics requires. It argues they are not metasemantically different from those in other gradable adjectives, and that contextual parameters of this sort are widespread in natural language. Furthermore, this paper shows that if (...) such parameters are rejected, it leads to an unacceptably rampant form of relativism, that relativizes truth to an open-ended list of parameters. (shrink)
An objection put forward by, among others, John McDowell to Kripke’s Wittgenstein’s relativist view of semantic discourse goes roughly as follows: relativism about semantic discourse entails global relativism, which in turn entails subjective idealism, which we can reasonably assume to be false. I show that even though relativism about semantic discourse does entail a form of global relativism, the relativism in question does not entail anything like subjective idealism. This particular kind of relativism holds (...) that which character, in Kaplan’s sense, is associated to a given utterance depends on what MacFarlane calls “the context of assessment”. (shrink)
This paper explains a fallacy that often arises in theorizing about human minds. I call it the Factual Belief Fallacy. The Fallacy, roughly, involves drawing conclusions about human psychology that improperly ignore the large backgrounds of mostly accurate factual beliefs people have. The Factual Belief Fallacy has led to significant mistakes in both philosophy of mind and cognitive science of religion. Avoiding it helps us better see the difference between factual belief and religious credence; seeing that (...) difference in turn enables us to pose interesting normative questions about various mental states labeled “belief.”. (shrink)
The paper explores the issue of moral relativism in Nietzsche, and tries to argue that Nietzsche's attitude towards moral values does not support a radical relativism according to which since (i) every moral interpretation is relative to a judging perspective, and (ii) an absolute viewpoint is lacking, then (iii) every moral interpretation seems to be as true, valid or justified as the others. On the contrary, Nietzsche's perspectivism leaves space for a rank order among values, whose establishment is (...) considered by Nietzsche as the future task of the philosopher. (shrink)
The past decade has seen a protracted debate over the semantics of epistemic modals. According to contextualists, epistemic modals quantify over the possibilities compatible with some contextually determined group’s information. Relativists often object that contextualism fails to do justice to the way we assess utterances containing epistemic modals for truth or falsity. However, recent empirical work seems to cast doubt on the relativist’s claim, suggesting that ordinary speakers’ judgments about epistemic modals are more closely in line with contextualism than (...) class='Hi'>relativism (Knobe & Yalcin 2014; Khoo 2015). This paper furthers the debate by reporting new empirical research revealing a previously overlooked dimension of speakers’ truth-value judgments concerning epistemic modals. Our results show that these judgments vary systematically with the question under discussion in the conversational context in which the utterance is being assessed. We argue that this ‘QUD effect’ is difficult to explain if contextualism is true, but is readily explained by a suitably flexible form of relativism. (shrink)
I attempt to rebut the following standard objections against cultural relativism: 1. It is self-defeating for a cultural relativist to take the principle of tolerance as absolute; 2. There are universal moral rules, contrary to what cultural relativism claims; 3. If cultural relativism were true, Hitler’s genocidal actions would be right, social reformers would be wrong to go against their own culture, moral progress would be impossible, and an atrocious crime could be made moral by forming a (...) culture which approves of it; 4. Cultural relativism is silent about how large a group must be in order to be a culture, and which culture we should follow when we belong to two cultures with conflicting moralities. (shrink)
I set out and defend a view on indicative conditionals that I call “indexical relativism ”. The core of the view is that which proposition is expressed by an utterance of a conditional is a function of the speaker’s context and the assessor’s context. This implies a kind of relativism, namely that a single utterance may be correctly assessed as true by one assessor and false by another.
Say that two sentences are factually equivalent when they describe the same facts or situations, understood as worldly items, i.e. as bits of reality rather than as representations of reality. The notion of factual equivalence is certainly of central interest to philosophical semantics, but it plays a role in a much wider range of philosophical areas. What is the logic of factual equivalence? This paper attempts to give a partial answer to this question, by providing an answer the (...) following, more specific question: Given a standard propositional language with negation, conjunction and disjunction as primitive operators, which sentences of the language should be taken to be factually equivalent by virtue of their logical form? The system for factual equivalence advocated in this paper is a proper fragment of the first-degree system for the logic of analytic equivalence put forward in the late seventies by R. B. Angell. I provide the system with two semantics, both formulated in terms of the notion of a situation’s being fittingly described by a linguistic item. In the final part of the paper I argue, contra a view I defended in my “Grounding and Truth-Functions”, that the logic for factual equivalence I advocate here should be preferred to Angell’s logic if one wishes to follow the general conception of the relationships between factual equivalence and the notion of grounding put forward in the 2010 paper. (shrink)
I begin with some familiar conceptions of epistemic relativism. One kind of epistemic relativism is descriptive pluralism. This is the simple, non-normative thesis that many different communities, cultures, social networks, etc. endorse different epistemic systems (E-systems), i.e., different sets of norms, standards, or principles for forming beliefs and other doxastic states. Communities try to guide or regulate their members’ credence-forming habits in a variety of different, i.e., incompatible, ways. Although there may be considerable overlap across cultures in certain (...) types of epistemic norms (e.g., norms for perceptual belief), there are sharp differences across groups in other types of epistemic norms. (shrink)
This paper critically examines color relationalism and color relativism, two theories of color that are allegedly supported by variation in normal human color vision. We mostly discuss color relationalism, defended at length in Jonathan Cohen's The Red and the Real, and argue that the theory has insuperable problems.
This book provides an analysis of the debate surrounding cultural diversity, and attempts to reconcile the seemingly opposing views of "ethical imperialism," the belief that each individual is entitled to fundamental human rights, and cultural relativism, the belief that ethics must be relative to particular cultures and societies. The author examines the role of cultural tradition, often used as a defense against critical ethical judgments. Key issues in health and medicine are explored in the context of cultural diversity: the (...) physician-patient relationship, disclosing a diagnosis of a fatal illness, informed consent, brain death and organ transplantation, rituals surrounding birth and death, female genital mutilation, sex selection of offspring, fertility regulation, and biomedical research involving human subjects. Among the conclusions the author reaches are that ethical universals exist, but must not be confused with ethical absolutes. The existence of ethical universals is compatible with a variety of culturally relative interpretations, and some rights related to medicine and health care should be considered human rights. Illustrative examples are drawn from the author's experiences serving on international ethical review committees and her travels to countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where she conducted educational workshops and carried out out her own research. (shrink)
Ethics position theory (EPT) maintains that individuals’ personal moral philosophies influence their judgments, actions, and emotions in ethically intense situations. The theory, when describing these moral viewpoints, stresses two dimensions: idealism (concern for benign outcomes) and relativism (skepticism with regards to inviolate moral principles). Variations in idealism and relativism across countries were examined via a meta-analysis of studies that assessed these two aspects of moral thought using the ethics position questionnaire (EPQ; Forsyth, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (...) 39, 175–184, 1980). This review identified 139 samples drawn from 29 different countries, for a total sample of 30,230 respondents, and concluded that (a) levels of idealism and relativism vary across regions of the world in predictable ways; (b) an exceptionist ethic is more common in Western countries, subjectivism and situationism in Eastern countries, and absolutism and situationism in Middle Eastern countries; and (c) a nation’s ethics position predicted that country’s location on previously documented cultural dimensions, such as individualism and avoidance of uncertainty (Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values, 1980). Limitations in these methods and concerns about the validity of these cross-cultural conclusions are noted, as are suggestions for further research using the EPQ. (shrink)
This paper explores the relationship between scepticism and epistemic relativism in the context of recent history and philosophy of science. More specifically, it seeks to show that significant treatments of epistemic relativism by influential figures in the history and philosophy of science draw upon the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion. The paper begins with a presentation of the problem of the criterion as it occurs in the work of Sextus Empiricus. It is then shown that significant treatments of (...) epistemic relativism in recent history and philosophy of science (critical rationalism, historical philosophy of science and the strong programme) draw upon the problem of the criterion. It is briefly suggested that a particularist response to the problem of the criterion may be put to good use against epistemic relativism. (shrink)
The purpose of this present research is to expand upon the foundation that codes of ethics are more useful guides to managers in their behavior and decision-making when managers are more familiar with code content and intentions. We explore whether the impact of code familiarity on code usefulness differs: (a) under varying conditions of turbulence and (b) between persons with relativist versus idealist personal values. Data have been collected from a sample of 1700 executives in member companies of the U.S. (...) Direct Selling Association, and responses were received from 286 (16.8% returned). Perceptions of ethics code familiarity and usefulness decline as business turbulence increases. The decline in familiarity/usefulness was more pronounced for managers with a relativistic ethical orientation. (shrink)
This article explores the relationship between epistemic relativism and Pyrrhonian scepticism. It is argued that a fundamental argument for contemporary epistemic relativism derives from the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion. Pyrrhonian scepticism is compared and contrasted with Cartesian scepticism about the external world and Humean scepticism about induction. Epistemic relativism is characterized as relativism due to the variation of epistemic norms, and is contrasted with other forms of cognitive relativism, such as truth relativism, conceptual (...)relativism and ontological relativism. An argument from the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion to epistemic relativism is presented, and is contrasted with three other arguments for epistemic relativism. It is argued that the argument from the criterion is the most fundamental argument for epistemic relativism. Finally, it is noted how the argument of the present paper fits with the author’s previous suggestion that a particularist response to the Pyrrhonian sceptic may be combined with a naturalistic view of epistemic warrant to meet the challenge of epistemic relativism. (shrink)
I argue that relativists about evaluative language face some of the same objections as non-naturalists in ethics. If these objections have force, there is reason to doubt the existence of relative evaluative states of affairs. In they do not exist, then relativism leads to an error theory. This is unattractive, as the position was specifically designed to preserve the truth of many evaluative claims.
I investigate the implication of the truth-relativist’s alleged ‘ faultless disagreements’ for issues in the epistemology of disagreement. A conclusion I draw is that the type of disagreement the truth-relativist claims to preserve fails in principle to be epistemically significant in the way we should expect disagreements to be in social-epistemic practice. In particular, the fact of faultless disagreement fails to ever play the epistemically significant role of making doxastic revision rationally required for either party in a disagreement. That the (...) truth-relativists’ disagreements over centred content fail to play this epistemically significant role that disagreements characteristically play in social epistemology should leave us sceptical that disagreement is what the truth-relativist has actually preserved. (shrink)
There are a number of debates that are relevant to questions concerning objectivity in science. One of the eldest, and still one of the most intensely fought, is the debate over epistemic relativism. —All forms of epistemic relativism commit themselves to the view that it is impossible to show in a neutral, non-question-begging, way that one “epistemic system”, that is, one interconnected set of epistemic standards, is epistemically superior to others. I shall call this view “No-metajustification”. No-metajustification is (...) commonly taken to deny the objectivity of standards. In this paper I shall discuss two currently popular attempts to attack “No-metajustification”. The first attempt attacks no-metajustification by challenging a particular strategy of arguing in its defence: this strategy involves the ancient Pyrrhonian “Problem of the Criterion”. The second attempt to refute No-metajustification targets its metaphysical underpinning: to wit, the claim that there are, or could be, several fundamentally different and irreconcilable epistemic systems. I shall call this assumption “Pluralism”. I shall address three questions with respect to these attempts to refute epistemic relativism by attacking no-metajustification: Can the epistemic relativist rely on the Problem of the Criterion in support of No-metajustification? Is a combination of Chisholmian “particularism” and epistemic naturalism an effective weapon against No-metajustification? And is Pluralism a defensible assumption? (shrink)
It is commonly held that retraction data, if we accept them, show that assessment relativism is to be preferred over non-indexical relativism (a.k.a. non-indexical contextualism). I will argue that this is not the case. Whether retraction data have the suggested probative force depends on substantive questions about the proper treatment of tense and location. One’s preferred account in these domains should determine which form of relativism one prefers.
In the pair of articles of which this is the second, I present a set of problems and philosophical proposals that have in recent years been associated with the term “relativism”. These problems are related to the question of how we should represent thought and speech about certain topics. The main issue is whether we should model such mental states or linguistic acts as involving representational contents that are absolutely correct or incorrect, or whether, alternatively, their correctness should be (...) thought of as varying with some (more or less surprising) factor. In the first article, “Relativism 1: Representational Content”, I discussed the general issue of relativism about representational content. I argued for the conciliatory view that both relativist and absoutist conceptions of representational content can be legitimate. In the present continuation, I look in more detail at a special case of the general issue, namely the question of whether semantic contents, i.e. the contents assigned to linguistic utterances in the semantics of natural language, should be construed in an absolutist or in a relativist way. (shrink)
In some cases of disagreement it seems that neither party is at fault or making a mistake. This phenomenon, so-called faultless disagreement, has recently been invoked as a key motivation for relativist treatments of domains prone to such disagreements. The conceivability of faultless disagreement therefore appears incompatible with traditional realists semantics. This paper examines recent attempts to accommodate faultless disagreement without giving up on realism. We argue that the accommodation is unsatisfactory. However, the examination highlights that “faultless” is multiply ambiguous. (...) The more overarching purpose is to examine the consequences of this—more generally, how to think about faultless disagreement. (shrink)
Some Key Controversies in the Philosophy of Science Larry Laudan. the mouths of my realist, relativist, and positivist. (By contrast, there is at least one person who hews to the line I have my prag- matist defending.) But I have gone to some ...
This chapter defends a version of the indexical contextualist form of moderate relativism: the attempt to endorse appearances of faultless disagreement within the framework in which a sentence at a context at the index of the context determines its appropriate truth-value. Many object that any such an indexical proposal would fail to account for intuitions of (genuine) disagreement as revealed in ordinary disputes in the domain. The defence from this objection exploits presuppositions of commonality to the effect that the (...) addressee is relevantly like the speaker of the context. (shrink)
The “ontological turn” is a recent movement within cultural anthropology. Its proponents want to move beyond a representationalist framework, where cultures are treated as systems of belief that provide different perspectives on a single world. Authors who write in this vein move from talk of many cultures to many “worlds,” thus appearing to affirm a form of relativism. We argue that, unlike earlier forms of relativism, the ontological turn in anthropology is not only immune to the arguments of (...) Donald Davidson’s “The Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme,” but it affirms and develops the antirepresentationalist position of Davidson’s subsequent essays. (shrink)
Relativism and contextualism have been suggested as candidate semantics for “knowledge” sentences. I argue that relativism faces a problem concerning the preservation of beliefs in memory. Contextualism has been argued to face a similar problem. I argue that contextualists, unlike relativists, can respond to the concern. The overall upshot is that contextualism is superior to relativism in at least one important respect.
Recent years have brought relativistic accounts of knowledge, first-person belief, and future contingents to prominence. I discuss these views, distinguish non-trivial from trivial forms of relativism, and then argue against relativism in all of its substantive varieties.
In Foundations for Moral Relativism, J. David Velleman shows that different communities can indeed be subject to incompatible moralities, because their local mores are rationally binding. At the same time, he explains why the mores of different communities, even when incompatible, are still variations on the same moral themes. The book thus maps out a universe of many moral worlds without, as Velleman puts it, "moral black holes”. The five self-standing chapters discuss such diverse topics as online avatars and (...) virtual worlds, lying in Russian and truth-telling in Quechua, the pleasure of solitude and the fear of absurdity. Accessibly written, Foundations for Moral Relativism presupposes no prior training in philosophy. (shrink)
This paper is a response to an objection that Markus Seidel has made to my analysis of epistemic relativism. Seidel argues that the epistemic relativist is unable to base a relativist account of justification on the sceptical problem of the criterion in the way that I have suggested in earlier work. In response to Seidel, I distinguish between weak and strong justification, and argue that all the relativist needs is weak justification. In addition, I explain my reasons for employing (...) the idiom of objectivity rather than that of absolutism which Seidel prefers. -/- . (shrink)
The paper explores the defence by the early sociologist of science Ludwik Fleck against the charge of relativism. It is shown that there are crucial and hitherto unnoticed similarities between Fleck’s strategy and the attempt by his contemporary Karl Mannheim to distinguish between an incoherent relativism and a consistent relationism. Both authors seek to revise epistemology fundamentally by reinterpreting the concept of objectivity in two ways: as inner- and inter-style objectivity. The argument for the latter concept shows the (...) genuine political background and intent of Fleck’s sociology of science and its ambition to relieve the cultural struggles of his time. (shrink)
In this paper we discuss a phenomenon we call perspectival plurality, which has gone largely unnoticed in the current debate between relativism and contextualism about predicates of personal taste. According to perspectival plurality, the truth value of a sentence containing more than one PPT may depend on more than one perspective. Prima facie, the phenomenon engenders a problem for relativism and can be shaped into an argument in favor of contextualism. We explore the consequences of perspectival plurality in (...) depth and assess several possible responses on behalf of advocates of relativism. (shrink)
In the pair of articles of which this is the first, I shall present a set of problems and philosophical proposals that have in recent years been associated with the term “relativism”. All these problems and proposals concern the question of how we should represent thought and speech about certain topics. The main issue here is whether we should model such mental states or linguistic acts as involving representational contents that are absolutely correct or incorrect, or whether, alternatively, their (...) correctness should be thought of as varying with some (more or less surprising) factor. In this, first, article, I shall discuss the general issue of relativism about representational content. I shall claim that there are legitimate ways of attributing contents that are absolute truth-bearers, and there are also equally legitimate ways of attributing relativistic representational contents. In the companion piece “Relativism 2: Semantic Content”, I look in more detail at the more specific question whether semantic contents (i.e. the contents assigned to linguistic utterances in the semantics of natural language) should be construed in an absolutist or a relativist way. (shrink)
Some moral disagreements are so persistent that we suspect they are deep : we would disagree even when we have all relevant information and no one makes any mistakes. The possibility of deep disagreement is thought to drive cognitivists toward relativism, but most cognitivists reject relativism. There is an alternative. According to divergentism, cognitivists can reject relativism while allowing for deep disagreement. This view has rarely been defended at length, but many philosophers have implicitly endorsed its elements. (...) I will defend it. (shrink)
What I am calling New Age Relativism is usually proposed as a thesis about the truth-conditions of utterances, where an utterance is an actual historic voicing or inscription of a sentence of a certain type. Roughly, it is the view that, for certain discourses, whether an utterance is true depends not just on the context of its making—when, where, to whom, by whom, in what language, and so on—and the “circumstances of evaluation”—the state of the world in relevant respects—but (...) also on an additional parameter: a context of assessment. Vary the latter and the truth-value of the utterance can vary, even though the context of its making and the associated state of the world remain fixed. (shrink)
This paper explores the question of whether there is an interesting form of specifically epistemic relativism available, a position which can lend support to claims of a broadly relativistic nature but which is not committed to relativism about truth. It is argued that the most plausible rendering of such a view turns out not to be the radical thesis that it is often represented as being.
A critical review of Paul Boghossian's Fear of Knowledge. I argue that the central argument against epistemic relativism fails and that even if the arguments of Fear of Knowledge worked perfectly on their own terms, Fear of Knowledge would fail to persuade the relativistically inclined.
This paper revisits one of the key ideas developed in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In particular, it explores the methodological form of incommensurability which may be found in the original edition of Structure. It is argued that such methodological incommensurability leads to a form of epistemic relativism. In later work, Kuhn moved away from the original idea of methodological incommensurability with his idea of a set of epistemic values that provides a basis for rational theory choice, but do (...) not constitute an algorithm for such choice. The paper also explores the sceptical basis for the epistemic relativism of the original view that Kuhn proposes in Structure. It suggests that the main sceptical rationale for such relativism may be avoided by a particularist and naturalist conception of epistemic normativity. When this approach is combined with the appeal to external methodological standards endorsed by the later Kuhn and his critics, the epistemic relativism of Structure may be completely repudiated. (shrink)
Despite Donald Davidson's influential criticism of the very notion of conceptual schemes, the notion continues enjoying its popularity in contemporary philosophy and, accordingly, conceptual relativism is still very much alive. There is one major reason responsible for Davidson's failure which has not been widely recognized: What Davidson attacks fiercely is not the very notion, but a notion of conceptual schemes, namely, the Quinean notion of conceptual schemes and its underlying Kantian scheme-content dualism. However, such a notion simply cannot carry (...) the weight of conceptual relativism for it does not catch the essences of conceptual relativism. Consequently, I argue that the very notion of conceptual schemes and conceptual relativism have survived Davidson's attack. Therefore, the failure of the Quinean notion of conceptual schemes and Kantian scheme-content dualism, even if Davidson can claim victory, does not mark the end of the very notion of conceptual schemes.[ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]. (shrink)